Resigned To Fate

Anyway…

I quit my job today.

I’ve never been fired from a job, unless you count my first job but then I wanted to get fired because I hated it and I couldn’t tell my mother I quit that job because she made me take it so I figured if I got fired that would be better.

I was 16 and could legally go to work in the state of California. My mother was tired of me hanging around the house all summer—and, I suspect, she wanted me to get a taste of what, exactly, she was putting up with every day from 8 to 5 (with an hour for lunch)—so I had to go find a job. And where else does an acne-faced, overweight teenager go to work except a place that makes you wear meat-colored polyester uniforms and little paper hats with golden arches on them?

And, yes, I looked like a sausage in that smelly, tattered uniform as I performed “Lot And Lobby” duty with my little dustbin and little broom and little bucket to clean the vomit and ketchup and piss and whatever else people leave behind them during a McDonald’s pit stop.

The vomit was by far the worst, because if I see or smell vomit, I want to vomit. So here’s this sausage guy with his fat ass squeezed into 100% non-breathable, sweat-inducing polyester and his little gray bucket of sudsy water and his soiled mop attempting to stifle his gag reflex in a fast food joint just around the corner from the order counter.

The soundtrack would go something like this: “Yes, may I (gag) take your or(gag-hack)der?” “I’d like a Big (gaggle) Mac, large order fries, (hack-gug-swish, flollup, flollup) and a large (huck) Coke.” “Would you like a (gag GAG) Hot Apple Pie with that?” (Brup Bruuub, Gag) “No, but make it a (gag gag gag gag splat) Tab instead of Coke.”

Funny thing I noticed about McDonald’s. Even if someone is vomiting 10 feet from you, you’re still hungry for their food.

Minimum Wages of Sin

So in December I stopped showing up for work and they mailed me my last check. When they called to see where I was, I feigned sickness. I just couldn’t bring myself to tell them to take their job and shovel it over the lawn. Like they’d care that another drone left the nest. “Bring me the stack of applications, Ted! We just lost another Lot And Lobby guy!” I mean, c’mon, a résumé was hardly necessary. “I’ve worked with the deep frier and burger grill for two years. Extensive knowledge of Secret Sauce.”

The next job I had, I quit twice. It was at a record store, and that was a mistake. Because I’d take advances against my salary to buy merchandise. At the end, I think I was still a couple hundred behind. It was parttime, and I was also working at a United Artists movie theatre. I managed to make it to assistant manager there until I quit to move to Los Angeles to become a Big Star.

In Los Angeles I worked for MusicPlus, a record store. Then my car got totalled and my roommate asked me to move out (my rent was always late, but I was still pissed. It was, after all, my TV!) and I moved back home to Bakersfield and spent a long, wonderful summer tanning my hide, hanging out with the cool kids, drinking and toking and generally abusing myself. And I never looked better in my life. I’d lost all kinds of weight while living in L.A. because I couldn’t afford to eat much more that Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Dinner. Then I come home and hang out by Mom’s pool, getting my hair to have all those healthy highlights from the sun and chlorine, getting my skin brown all over.

But that couldn’t last, of course.

My friend Rita worked for Crocker Bank downtown and she got me an interview for a teller position. This might have been an even more depressing job than VomitBoy. Because as a bank teller you get paid shit, you’re constantly watched by cameras, you handle literally tens of thousands of dollars a day, you have to smile at all the old, ugly people who come in with their huge Social Security checks and demand that their money is counted out over and over and over, then proceed to start changing twenties for hundreds, fives for ones, blah blah blah. Plus our branch was the one by Chain Younger, a lawfirm of ambulance chasers (we’d sometimes have lunch outside to watch them chase ambulances) who regularly secured huge settlements for incredibly dumb people who’d been “hurt in an accident” and they’d accompany these people to the bank to cash their checks. Cash them! They’d hand over a check for $25,000 and they’d walk out with a canvas bag with ‘Crocker Bank’ stenciled across the side containing $25,000 in cash! In cash!

Money Is The Root Of My Evil

I managed to stay at Crocker after it was consumed by Wells Fargo and rose to the rank of Mortgage Loan Officer. This was an even worse place to be than teller, at least as far as I was concerned. We treated our customers like criminals, never trusted one, always asked for more and more and more documentation of their income (“We’ll need three years of tax returns, copies of wage stubs for the last three months, a note from your mommy, two liters of blood and your firstborn male child.”) and our rates stank. I felt like a slime ball in my button-down shirt and paisley tie and quit with a six-week notice, because I had no prospects for doing anything else.

Luckily, the woman who I’d replaced in the Mortgage Lending position was a friend and she had a sister who worked for a company called Systematics which was an outsourcer. What that meant is that they’d infiltrate banks and fire the bank’s technical staff and take over their equipment and install their own software and developers and charge the bank a percentage of what they had been paying their own people to do until about a year later when all the software needed to be upgraded and more people needed to be brought in to support it. So I got hired on as an ATM Network Assistant, meaning I helped the ATM Network Supervisor monitor the ATM Network. When an ATM went down, we’d dispatch Diebold to repair it. When an ATM needed new software, we burned the disks (at that time, they were the size of vinyl records) and sent them out for loading. If an ATM went down on a weekend or ran out of money, we’d get beeped at any hour of the day or night to resolve the problem by either calling the branch manager to load more cash or clear the jam or meet with Diebold to repair something—usually the “picker” which was the part that would pluck one bill at a time from the pile of twenties to deliver it to you.

Systematics was subsequently bought by another company, ALLTEL, and I stayed with that company for almost eight years. I did all sorts of things, all related to computers or telephony, until I got to one data center for the stupidest client I ever encountered. They were so stupid and made my job so frustrating that I quit. I always figured I quit because my manager was stupid or I’d finally reach my boredom tolerance level, but it was the client who drove me out.

That, and the fact that the company, ALLTEL, just didn’t “get” the Web.

Webhead

During the last two years of my tenure with ALLTEL, the Web and the Internet were gathering copious amounts of press in the telecom and computer magazines I was reading and I knew that these would be of growing importance to businesses. I kept telling my managers that the Web was where I wanted to head. I wanted to learn more about it and help our clients be a step ahead. The problem was that our clients were mostly banks and banks move at a glacial pace. If you think there’s a lot of political mire for you to navigate in your work environment, try working at a financial institution for a year. If banks didn’t have all that security in place to prevent firearms from making an appearence, the term “Going Postal” would never enter the public vernacular.

So I was doing it on my own, hence this site and its myriad developments and changes. If you were around here when glassdog first started, you’ll remember that the entire site would be redesigned every three months. Things were changing fast in regards to browser capabilities and since there was only really one (Netscape) and anyone on the Web was an “early adopter” and therefore fairly technically savvy and always had the latest version, you could always incorporate the new capabilities immediately, even during the Beta phase. It was fun and exciting and I knew it was what I wanted to be doing.

But ALLTEL didn’t. Even though they were a communications company and Web access would likely be playing an important part in their bottom line, they weren’t interested in putting together a Web team of any sort. So I was frustrated, but not frustrated enough to quite because of it. The client managed that for me.

So then I was sort of floating free for a while, checking out where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do and ended up in Boston working for a company with a long history of developing, administering and maintaining Oracle RDBMS’s (or Relational DataBase Management Systems, if you’re not into hellaciously big database crap). Alexis Massie was already working for them, having just joined the firm a few months earlier, and got me an interview and pretty much guaranteed me a job.

My problem at the time was that I had no experience. None. Nada. No portfolio, no client sites to point to, no degree from any college, nothing web-related at all other than my personal work at glassdog and soulflare. No one really wanted me except one company in Palo Alto and I was tempted to take that job but I couldn’t see what their business plan was. Not that those sort of things would turn out to matter on the Web (I mean, looking at Yahoo! now, who could have foreseen that an index of Web sites would become a one-stop, all-encompassing portal and that “portal” would become such a money-grabbing term? Certainly not me.) but coming from a background fairly firmly planted in economic reality (which the Web certainly is not—or at least it’s twisting that reality to its own means) it seemed important at the time. And this company seemed poised on the verge of becoming a very important Web presence.

Trip, Stumble and Fall

But that never happened. And here’s my own personal, totally biased opinion as to why.

The promise was that here was a company with a huge customer base of Oracle users and they recognized the potential of the Web. They knew that all data, regardless of what it is or where it’s at, benefits from being in a database. That makes the data useable, retrievable, updatable. And the Web was nothing if not a huge collection of content wanting—needing—to be databased. So they hired a couple of Web designers, they got in bed with Microsoft once that company also woke up to the Web’s potential, they tried to build themselves into a company that knew about developing interactive, dynamic Web sites from the backend to the frontend.

The problem was that they were an established company with established ways of doing business and established expectations regarding how long projects take and how to manage them. The Web, of course, doesn’t sit still to wait six months or a year for a project to be completed. By that time, you’re already behind. But the sales and management teams did not or could not recognize what it takes to develop ecommerce and ebusiness, which in the case of this company meant throwing out many of their billing and scheduling practices and starting from scratch.

In the midst of the struggles to get that to happen, which I believe they wanted to do, they were also negotiating with a larger company to buy them out. Here was a closely-held company with no stockholders to please. Only the three principals held any monetary interest in the company’s profits, so selling out was an extremely attractive option. Plus, the company that eventually bought them looked like a good fit. Here was a company specializing in developing databases for Intranets, Extranets and (potentially) Web sites, and the buyer was building a high-speed fiber network that would be used by Fortune500 companies to deliver those databases and sites. They could now sell everything from connectivity to frontend. Everything but the equipment, and that was a commodity anyway.

But, as in all business marriages, not everything was a perfect fit. There were struggles to maintain some amount of autonomy regarding how this (small, intimate) business was run as opposed to how their (large, impersonal, bottom-line) business was run. That process, “the good fight” took up so much time and energy on the part of our company’s people that we ended up losing the C.E.O. and, I think, losing any advantage we had about becoming that Web developer whose promise I had been told about when I was hired two-and-a-half years ago.

Stick A Fork In Me

So my reasons for composing my resignation this time—the sixth of my career—are boredom, frustration and an itch to try something out on my own.

Yes, rather than putting out résumés, registering with headhunters, trolling job boards on the Web and hitting up friends of friends at this studio or that firm I’m going to pull up stakes, move out West and hang out my own “Open For Business” sign. After all these years of fooling around with World Domination, I’m going to go for it.

For real.

I have no idea what will happen, which excites me. I’ve never taken the road less travelled. I’ve never had the confidence in myself to trust my own judgment and take the leap that says “You know who the best person for the job is? You are.

I’ve never used this word in my life, but I’m going to use it now: Consider me officially “stoked.”

Wish me luck…

October 8, 1999

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